The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, says the Federal Government is doing everything possible to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production before the end of 2018.
Ogbeh said this when he featured at the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja.
He said that there were strong indications that Nigeria would become self-sufficient in rice production by 2018 because many farmers had rediscovered their potential in rice farming.
“First, let me congratulate Nigerians for responding positively to the made-in-Nigeria rice during the last Christmas period.
“Nigerians have discovered that Nigerian rice is better than rice from Thailand and Vietnam, which are the largest producers of rice in the world.
“We are in a rivalry with the two countries for now and we will soon overtake them in rice production and take over the market from them.
“People in Thailand do not eat parboiled rice but white rice. So, all the parboiled rice they produce is exported to Nigeria.
“Nigeria is the biggest consumer of imported rice in the world.
“By so doing, we are transferring our jobs to these two countries and leaving our teeming youths angry and hungry,’’ he said.
The minister, however, said that rice production in the country had improved appreciably, particularly in states like Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo.
Ogbeh said that in the northeastern part of the country, Kebbi, Kano, Jigawa, Sokoto, Katsina and Zamfara states were taking due advantage of their dams by engaging in rice production as well.
The minister said that the Federal Government had just imported 110 rice mills, adding that the mills would soon be distributed to communities across the country.
Ogbeh said that the gesture was aimed at boosting the production and income of rice farmers, adding that some of the rice mills could mill 50 tonnes of rice per day.
“We are distributing the mills to communities, under a programme called `LIFE’, which entails taking industries to villages, because we don’t have the whole population in Abuja, Lagos, Enugu, Port Harcourt or Kano.
“We will satisfy our demand for rice. By so doing, we will be creating 20 million jobs in the villages and saving about five million dollars used for the importation of rice daily.
“Ironically, the recession in the country is not facing people in the villages. If you go to Kebbi now, there are about 400 millionaires made from rice, wheat and soya bean farming,’’ he added.
Besides, Ogbeh said that agricultural extension workers would soon teach the farmers about how to parboil rice, while setting a standard for the usage of good-quality rice seeds.
“The era of soaking rice in a tank and leaving it overnight is long overdue.
“Rice should not be soaked for more than three hours in water with a temperature of about 80 degrees centigrade.
“The rice should also be steamed for about 30 minutes and dried in a proper place to avoid stones,’’ he said.
The minister said that efforts were underway to acquire rice reaper machines, used for cutting and harvesting paddy.
He, however, noted that Nigeria was currently selling rice to Cameroon, Niger, Chad, Mali and Mauritania.
“All the same, we cannot stop them from buying our rice; we will rather expand our production,’’ he added. (NAN)